by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It was Gustavo Tsuboi who made the better start; he captured the opening game in a contest between players of different generations, at 32 years of age Gustavo Tsuboi being nine years the senior and with experience of competing in similar title deciding engagements.
Conversely, for Eric Jouti, it was unexplored territory, vying for honours in a duel that determined a passport to one of the sport’s major international annual events, was a new experience.
The opening game was captured by Gustavo Tsuboi with a degree of comfort, the second proved a somewhat closer affair. Eric Jouti adapted to the situation. Gustavo Tsuboi established a 10-8 lead, serving Eric Jouti levelled but arguably experienced counted. The next two points went to Gustavo Tsuboi, the favourite for the title held a two-nil lead.
A change of shirt for Gustavo Tsuboi, the players returned, the noise in the hall from the thunder storm and torrential rain beating on the roof virtually drowning out the interval music, quite deafening.
In the third game Gustavo Tsuboi established a 6-2 lead; Eric Jouti won the next four points before moving ahead 9-7. The level of the rallies rising, Gustavo Tsuboi levelled at 9-all but the next two points went to Eric Jouti, the deficit was down to one game.
A recovery from Eric Jouti; in the fourth game, it was the reverse scenario. At 7-5 Eric Jouti held a two point lead, again he held the same advantage at 9-7 but he was not to capitalise. The next four points went to Gustavo Tsuboi. A two games advantage was once again established.
It was a missed chance to level matters but to his great credit, Eric Jouti responded to clinch the fifth game; the forehand top spin he executed to take the score from 9-6 to 10-6 bending around the net brought gasps of disbelief from the crowd.
Tense moments, in the sixth game, Gustavo Tsuboi seized an early advantage at 3-1; he extended the lead to 9-2. Throughout, Eric Jouti, totally professional, fought but Gustavo Tsuboi was not to be denied; at 10-3, he held seven match points, seven Championship points.
The first two were saved, Gustavo Tsuboi, astute, called “Time Out”, he gathered his thoughts; he returned, he won the next point, the title was secured.
“It was really tough, really tough mentally. The sound of the rain, the breaks in play because of the rain dripping through the roof, the high level of humidity; it all made everything so difficult. Thankfully today I was able to keep my focus. We know each other so well, we practise together at São Caetano in São Paulo; it’s always hard playing Eric but at the recent Brazil Open I won four-nil when we played. Here after winning the first two games I led 6-2 in the third; from that point I could have pushed on the win four-nil but there again in the fourth I was down 7-9 and won.” Gustavo Tsuboi
Defeat for Eric Jouti but he can hold his head high; his attitude, effort and behaviour exemplary.
“This is a really good start to the new season for me, after having a holiday break; I’m going to play for Rzezcow in Poland and of course it’s really good in my preparation for the World Cup.” Gustavo Tsuboi
Qualification for the Liebherr 2017 Men’s World Cup, it is qualification for the third time; he played in Paris in 2011 and in Halmstad in 2015. Furthermore, it is a tournament in which he has excelled. In 2011 he won the Inter-Continental Cup; in 2015 he reached the quarter-finals.